I’ve been in listening mode over the last fortnight.
I’ve attended recent sessions about our future strategy position paper with both corporate staff in Trust HQ and community staff from Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale (HMR), where I’ve heard views and concerns.
I’ve also heard brilliant stories about the results of listening at our Go Engage celebration event. And I’ve been incredibly moved by a powerful and inspirational story at our Board meeting from a teenager on our mental health Horizon Unit in Bury.
While technology has changed the way we work and communicate, nothing beats face-to-face communications in order to really hear someone, understand their issues and respond sensitively and positively.
I heard loud and clear the emotional impact that our future plans have had on community staff in HMR when I met with them this week. They talked about feeling “gutted” and “let down”, because they are so proud of what they have achieved and are anxious not to lose this.
I acknowledged this and committed to doing everything possible to build in safeguards to not unravel their superb work and positive relationships.
No-one in the whole system would want that. Their success and the success in all our localities is down to the people working there who have made it happen. And so I am hoping that, regardless of whatever structural changes happen, these staff will still be doing great things in the future whoever they work for.
At the corporate staff sessions, I saw that people are still digesting the news and wondering what it means for them. I recognise that for these staff they are both impacted by the changes as well as needing to help the organisation enact the changes.
So the strong commitment and hard work these teams have always shown will be needed now more than ever. I also appreciate, because of the nature of corporate support, that there is less clarity around some things right now.
They understandably are looking for answers, many of which we don’t have at this early stage. However, we are working through some of the areas you have flagged up where we know we need to give a clear steer such as recruitment to vacant posts and roll out of the electronic patient record. So for now, it’s business as usual but we are expecting to provide clarity in a number of these areas very shortly.
Like a lot of you, I have personally been impacted by big changes of this sort many times in my NHS career, and have also been responsible for leading and managing such change on numerous occasions. I know how anxiety inducing it can be and although I don’t have all the details and answers yet, it’s important to put myself in your shoes and deliver the sort of open and compassionate leadership you would expect.
The last couple of weeks have made me think about four things. The power of listening. The power of people. The power of recognition. And the power of hope.
Despite worries about what the changes might mean for people personally, I’ve been really struck by your strong desire to do a good job; and to build on, not lose, the good work you’ve achieved. Recognising what has been achieved is important. A compliment shows respect, admiration, gratitude, trust, appreciation, and hope. It can lift moods and impact our outlook and it shows that we are valued.
And so it is important over the coming months that we take every opportunity to pay our compliments and to show our thanks and appreciation for what people are doing. There are always plenty of opportunities to do this.
I was at the launch of our young people’s mental health research unit yesterday where I heard about the great research being undertaken to inform better practice and outcomes for people.I also attended the celebration event for our second cohort of Go Engage staff earlier last week, where I heard about the really innovative engagement work they are doing. Both events were positive ways of recognising and valuing great work and they made me feel inspired and hopeful about the future.
Plus, many congratulations to Rickaia Brown our e-rostering project manager who has just been crowned rising star in the Women in IT Excellence Awards. And also to Dr Sarah Burlinson and Nathan Randles who both won awards last night from the North West division of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Sarah won 'consultant of the year' and Nathan ‘service user of the year’, which is brilliant.
And talking of hope, my week was really made by a story of hope from a teenager talking about her personal journey and the support she has been receiving from our services. She is just about to leave our Horizon Unit and spoke so eloquently about moving from a dark place where she felt “no-one could fix me’ to her plans to now become a mental health nurse. It was incredibly moving and inspirational. Pain is real, but so too is hope.
Good engagement is needed now more than ever and so too is the sharing of positive stories and praising each other.
I promise to keep on listening and doing my best to recognise and appreciate your hard work.